SATYAMEVA JAYATE (TRUTH ALONE TRIUMPHS)
presented by AGNI KOOTTHU (THEATRE OF FIRE)
written & directed by Elangovan
performed (in English) by Ahamed Ali Khan (Gandhi) & Hemang Yadav (Godse)
Sat 1 & Sun 2 Aug 2009, 8 pm, $20, The Substation Theatre (Tickets available at The Substation Box-0ffice - Tel: 63377800)
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." ~ Plato
Mahatma Gandhi, the messiah of peace is the pioneer and perfector of Satyagraha - the resistance of tyranny through mass civil disobedience.
On 30 Jan 1948, at 5.10 pm, Gandhi leaves his room at the Birla House. He walks briskly to the prayer ground. Gandhi greets the waiting crowd. Nathuram Godse folds his hands and says 'Namaste'. Pushing aside one of the girls walking with Gandhi, he shoots him at pointblank range. Three bullets hit Gandhi. Godse surrenders to the police. He is hanged till dead at Ambala Prison on 15 November 1949.
Godse's defence was not allowed to be publicized by the Indian government for more than 50 years. According to Justice Gopal Das Khosla, one of Godse's judges, who did play a role in convicting him: "the audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men were coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs. I have, however, no doubt that had the audience on that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse's appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of 'not guilty' by an overwhelming majority."
Both Gandhi and Godse believed in TRUTH. But they took different roads to truth. Is Godse really the mad Hindu fanatic as portrayed by the establishment that sentenced him to death?
Both Gandhi and Godse meet in "Trishanku's heaven". [Trishanku's heaven is a mythological world created by sage Viswamitra for mortal king Trishanku who wanted to go to heaven. The immortals refused to accept Trishanku and he was marooned between earth and heaven for eternity.]
They debate about their preferred modes of 'speaking truth to power' - Ahimsa (Non-violence) and Himsa (Violence). Godse's memoryscapes contest the official truths of the Gandhian era to reclaim history.
Godse's gun that he had used to kill Gandhi is on the table with one bullet left. Both are forced to play Russian-roulette as only then they will be liberated from the stalemate position in Trishanku's heaven. Their cross-examinations of each other exhume the nature of tyranny in our lives, and examine the relevance of peace and love to survive as human beings in this violent world.
But a bullet is fired to seal the glaring discrepancies in the mythifications.
GODSE: The Muslim squads in Pakistan were well supplied with daggers, swords, spears and even fire-arms. They had bands of stabbers and their auxiliaries, who covered the assailant, ambushed the victims and disposed the bodies. The bands were subsidized by the Muslim League. The assassins were paid cash for the number of Hindus and Sikhs bagged. Women were raped in the presence of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. After being raped they were distributed among the Muslims to be kept as concubines or were forcibly married. A large number were carried into the tribal territory, and became untraceable. Children were snatched from the hands of their parents, tossed on spears and swords, and sometimes thrown alive into the fire. Women's breasts, noses and arms were lopped off. Sticks and pieces of iron were thrust into their private parts. The bellies of pregnant women were ripped open and the fetus was thrown out. All these happened at a time when, in India, you undertook your last fast to get better treatment for the Muslims in India.
GANDHI: 15 August 1947. Independence day. The Sikhs in Amritsar slaughtered the male Muslims. The Muslim women were stripped, raped and then paraded naked through the city to the Golden Temple, where their throats were cut. A British officer of the Punjab Boundary Force found four Muslim babies roasted like piglets on spits in a village raided by Sikhs. On both sides, a man's sexual organ became a target. In India, Sikhs and Hindus checked the trains going to Pakistan and slaughtered every circumcised male. In Pakistan, the Muslims blocked every train going to India and slaughtered every uncircumcised male. RSS groups kidnapped a Muslim woman wearing a Burqa. They soaked her in petrol and set her ablaze outside the gate of Nehru's York Road residence. The vultures were so bloated by their feasts that they could not fly. The stray dogs were so choosy that they ate only the livers of the corpses. But the Harijans, Hindu untouchables were spared. In the Pakistan refugee camps, the Sikhs and Hindus complained to their Muslim guards that they were forced to live in filth as there were no untouchable to clean the latrines. In Karachi, the sanitation system collapsed. So the Muslims allowed the untouchables to wear green and white armbands similar to those of the Muslim National Guard for protection from killing squads. [Laughs] It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.